The small community of Suffolk is a part of Saint Nicholas, one mile west of Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, located at 40° 48’ 45” N 76° 14’ 30” W. Saint Nicholas is designated as an unincorporated populated place within Mahanoy Township.
Population:- The population of Mahanoy Township at the 2012 census was 3,152. The population of Suffolk today is said to be “one home and one family” (see e-mail of 28th February 2014 from Bob Heider on Guest Book).
How to get there:-
By road: From Harrisburg & the south west, take Interstate Highway 81 north, then take State Highway 61, before turning right into Gilberton. From there take Gilberton Road/W Centre Street eastwards until you reach Saint Nicholas. Suffolk is at the junction with State Highway 54 on your left. From the north east, take Interstate Highway 81 southbound, then head west on State Highway 54 through Mahanoy City until you arrive at Saint Nicholas. From the north, take State Highway 924 to Shenandoah, then State Highway 54 to Suffolk.
By Rail: The nearest stations still in use are at Gilberton and Shenandoah. There used to be stations at Boston Run, Saint Nicholas and Mahoney City, but these are no longer open to the public. The lines are still in use for freight.
The nearest international airport is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International, around 50 miles from Suffolk. From there follow Interstate Highway 81 southbound, directions as above.
Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hrs). Daylight saving time in summer + 1 hr.
Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)
Suffolk was one of the many ‘patch villages’ in the Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The region is home to the largest known deposits of anthracite coal found in the Americas, and the only industry is coal mining. Suffolk itself lies near to the headwaters of the Mahanoy Creek, known locally as Coal Creek, just to the east of Mahanoy City. It is located in one of the parallel valleys of the Ridge and Valley topography of the Appalachian Mountains, with the Locust Mountain ridge to the north and the Broad Mountain ridge to the south.
‘Patch villages’ were small villages or hamlets associated with one particular mine. Coal companies bought a ‘patch’ of land and built a village near to their coal mines. These small villages, with populations typically less than 500, were solely owned by the mine. Coal patch villages differed from other villages and towns in that they were not incorporated, did not have elected officials and were wholly owned by the coal company which controlled who lived within their confines. State laws allowed the company to own all the homes and the general store, to operate its own public utilities and, most importantly, the company organised and controlled its own police force. The miners were wholly dependent on the coal company for their wages, housing, clothing and general merchandise. At the end of the week when the miners were paid, their pay was docked for tools they used in the mines, for food and any other items that they bought at the store. The coal company generally provided plots for churches and schools to be built.
In 1749 the proprietors of Pennsylvania bought title to this land from the Native Americans, but it was left as mountain forest with only the occasional isolated log cabin family present. In 1790 a lumberman, Nicho Allen, in search of timber and game, discovered anthracite on the Broad Mountain ridge, when he accidentally set alight an outcrop of coal on which he had built his campfire. However, he never profited from his discovery. The abundance of timber in the mountains meant that coal was largely ignored. From 1795 local blacksmiths in this part of Pennsylvania began using coal when they found that anthracite burns longer and produces much more heat than other combustible material. The first attempts to market this “black rock” on a commercial basis met with general resistance, until success was met with the rolling mills in the 1820s. After 1825 there was an influx of speculators and capitalists to Schuylkill County to exploit the new coalfields. Although it was known that the Mahanoy Creek valley held anthracite deposits, they could not be exploited until the railroad reached this area. It was not until 1860 that the railroad reached the headwaters of Mahanoy Creek and the coalmines could be opened, although land had already been bought in anticipation of this event.
Saint Nicholas Colliery was opened in 1861 and in that year Saint Nicholas was first settled along what is now the main valley road (Route 54) between Mahanoy City and Shenandoah. At that time the community included what is now Saint Nicholas, Wiggans (now Boston Run), and Suffolk (see Other Adjoining Patch Villages, below). What was to become the Suffolk Colliery was first opened in 1863 by Pliny Fisk from Suffolk County in Massachusetts, and it was first known as Fisk’s Colliery. In February 1864 it was sold by Fisk to a group of men from Boston, Massachusetts, who formed the Suffolk Coal Company. The Company built the village of Suffolk that year which was also referred to as ‘Suffolk Patch’. This was along a road running north from the village of Saint Nicholas. In 1868 the mining village of Suffolk was made up of 42 families. All the men and boys of the community were employed at the Suffolk Colliery. There was one general store and a school house in Suffolk both serving the whole neighbourhood. In 1874, by the combined effort of the people of Saint Nicholas and Suffolk, the United Church was erected in Suffolk. Around it centred the religious and social life of the communities along the Mahanoy Creek valley. The Suffolk Coal Company was basically controlled by its main shareholder, John Phillips, who was superintendent of the mine with his son as foreman. In 1875 John Phillips sold the Suffolk Coal Company to the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Co. Thereafter the village of Suffolk was owned by that company which was busy buying up all the other coal mines in the Mahanoy valley.
Very little changed for the next 50 years. The big change came in 1929. In that year the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Co. decided to build a central breaker where the coal from every one of the collieries in the valley went through that breaker before it went to market. This was to be located in the vicinity of Saint Nicholas. It was decided to place the new central breaker where the Suffolk breaker was located. About 10 square miles of land was needed (see St Nicholas Breaker, below). This meant that half of the surrounding village of Suffolk would have to be relocated. In August 1929, people occupying the houses to be torn down were given notice that they would be moved. This affected 23 families. After the removal of the houses the company built a new concrete bridge at Saint Nicholas that meant the removal of the general store that had served the community. The work was completed in 1931. By this time what was left of the village of Suffolk, adjacent to the main valley road (Route 54), was absorbed as a neighbourhood of the community of Saint Nicholas.
Suffolk in 1937 composed of 19 families, a Union Church, an elementary school house and the St Nicholas Central Breaker. There were 240 employees of Suffolk Colliery. The old Suffolk breaker, located where the present St Nicholas Breaker now stands, had a capacity of 750 tons daily, and the average production was 600 tons. The prosperity brought by coal in the Mahanoy valley lasted from 1860 to 1960. The decades following World War II saw a steep reversal in the fortunes of coal mining as the demand for anthracite lessened. Hard-coal veins, deep beneath the earth, are difficult and expensive to mine, and the country began increasingly to rely on oil and natural gas as primary sources of fuel. The Knox Mine Disaster in 1959 became the death knell for deep mining within the region. When miners dug too close to the riverbed of the Susquehanna River, the waters broke through creating a whirlpool that pulled the water in and flooded miles of mines throughout the Wyoming Valley, as they were all connected to one another. This ended deep mining in the Wyoming Valley.
None of the deep coal mines in the Mahanoy Creek valley are now functioning; all current anthracite mining is done by stripping veins on the mountainside where they are closest to the surface. In 1961 the Philadelphia & Reading Corporation divested itself of its anthracite coal interests, selling to the present owners, the Reading Anthracite Company. The St Nicholas Breaker ceased operations in 1963. The new method of extracting anthracite meant less labour and the mining communities collapsed. Today Suffolk and Saint Nicholas consists of less than 20 houses, plus the Union Church, with the population of Suffolk said to now consist of “one home and one family”.
Within the boundaries of Mahanoy Township, 12 collieries opened between 1860 and 1865. This number more than doubled in the following six years. Each colliery had its own patch village. Although each village was separate and distinct, there were a number of adjoining villages to Suffolk that, with Saint Nicholas, formed a single community a few miles to the east of Mahanoy City (see map below).
Saint Nicholas: This is located on the main road (Route 54) between Mahanoy City and Shenandoah, just over one mile east of Mahanoy City. The village of Suffolk was built on the road running north from Saint Nicholas up the side of the mountain ridge.
Colonel Henry Cake and his partner, Mr Guise opened a colliery in 1861 that was about 700 yards south of Suffolk Colliery. While engaged in erecting a breaker for their colliery, Mr Guise was killed by an accident. A village was built at the same time along the road in the valley. Henry Cake, the surviving partner, named the place and colliery Saint Nicholas. Legend has it that this was because it first operated on a Christmas Day. Until 1864 the colliery and village were also known as Cake’s Colliery and Cake’s Patch. In 1864 Henry Cake sold the colliery and village to a group of businessmen who incorporated it as the Saint Nicholas Coal Company. This company operated the colliery and village until February 1880 when the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Co. bought it. The colliery had a capacity of 500 tons daily, and a workforce of 300 employees.
At that time the community included Saint Nicholas, Wiggans, and Suffolk. With Suffolk, it was very much the central point of the little patch villages in the Mahanoy valley. In 1874 the Union Church was built on the corner of the road leading up to Suffolk Colliery, and this church served all those of the Protestant persuasion: Primitive Methodist, Evangelical, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Reformed clergymen took it in turn to perform services. With the decline of the coal industry and the closure of the deep coal mines in the valley, nothing much remains of Saint Nicholas other than a few houses dotted along the highway.
Wiggans: Further along the highway after the road turns north through Suffolk were Wiggans and Upper Wiggans; both parts together were known as Wiggans Patch. This village was connected with the Bear Run Colliery which was opened in 1863 by George F Wiggans (who was an Englishman) and C H R Treibles. The colliery had a capacity of 450 tons daily, and employed a workforce of 225.
In the 19th century Wiggans Patch took in all the homes along the road west, from directly past the turn north to Suffolk, Upper Wiggans being nearest to the turning. Modern day Wiggans Patch is restricted to only two or three houses located along the highway lying directly west of the turning, the former Upper Wiggans. The remainder of the village became Boston Run after 1915, when that village relocated to the main road (see next entry).
A major event in the history of the Pennsylvania Coal Region occurred in 1875 at what is now Boston Run. This was the Wiggans Patch Massacre, an incident in the violent times when the coal owners were trying to suppress the trade unions and the miners’ strikes.
Boston Run: the colliery was opened in 1862 by several men from Boston, Massachusetts, hence its name.It had a capacity of 650 tons daily, and employed 183 workers. The colliery was situated further west along the road from Saint Nicholas, across the other side of the railroad tracks and Mahanoy Creek. The original village of Boston Run grew up around the colliery. In the 1870s the Reading & Philadelphia Coal and Iron Co. acquired it. At this time it was somewhat isolated from the other communities, but well within walking distance. Nevertheless, the homes were rather basic, without running water and lighting. The women had to walk a mile to fetch their water from wells.
In the 1900s proper highways began to be built, and the main road from Mahanoy to Gilberton was constructed just across the railway tracks through Wiggans Patch. The people of Boston Run preferred to be nearer the main highway and began building new houses there. These new homes were far better than the old ones, with electric lights and running water installed. By 1915 the entire location of Boston Run had moved, and this part of Wiggans Patch took on the name of Boston Run. The old houses at the original location are long gone, and the Boston Run colliery closed down in 1939. The “new” Boston Run had between 25 and 35 houses. With the decline of the coal industry, there are now a lot fewer houses, but this settlement outgrew Saint Nicholas and Suffolk, and it remains the largest of the patch villages today.
Maple Hill: This is the next patch village north of Suffolk further up the mountainside, midway between Suffolk and Ellangowan, and adjacent to the St Nicholas Central Breaker. The colliery was more recent than the others, only being opened in 1892. The village of Maple Hill was established by the Philadelphia & Reading Company in 1895 so that its workers could be near the colliery. There were 24 homes and 134 residents. It received its name from the nearby Maple Dale school.
Ellangowan: This is the next village adjoining Maple Hill. The interesting thing about this settlement is its longer history and name. In the early 19th century the Little Schuylkill Company had extensive rights over the timber land. In 1835 the company sent John Faust to clear land in what later became Mahanoy City. Some time after this, his son William Faust established another clearing three miles to the west. This was the beginnings of Ellangowan, although it had no name at that time. In 1853 William Faust was still the agent in this vicinity for the Little Schuylkill Company. However, by 1860 Samuel Everett had succeeded Faust, and he lived here in a log house, maintaining a farm and slaughter house. It seems that the location was then known as Maple Dale. In 1860 a man by the name of Fisher opened a drift mine to exploit the coal deposits, and thus established the first colliery in the neighbourhood. Fisher’s Patch was bought by James Lanigan, and the small settlement around the drift mine became known as Lanigan’s Patch. A school house called the Maple Dale School was built near Samuel Everett’s house with his daughter as teacher. The children from the neighbouring villages attended this school until others were built nearer to their own homes.
The colliery changed hands (and names) a couple more times before it was acquired by the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Company in 1873. It was at this juncture that the village was given its permanent name of Ellangowan. Franklin B. Gowen was then president of the Reading Company, and a myth has arisen that he gave the name in honour of his wife or daughter. His wife’s name was Esther, but his daughter’s name was, in fact, Ellen Gowen. However, the name Ellangowan comes from the book, Guy Manning, written by Sir Walter Scott in 1815, and it is the name of the beautiful estate that forms the background to the book’s plot. Given the similarity with the Gowen family name, it is not hard to see how the myth got started, and the name is often mispelt “Ellengowen”. It may be that Franklin B. Gowen intentionally selected a name similar to his daughter’s, but in 1873 he himself spelt the name of the recently acquired colliery as in the Scott novel. The colliery had a capacity of 1200 tons daily, and a workforce of 250.
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A coal breaker was a coal processing plant which broke coal into various commercial sizes. Coal breakers also removed impurities from the coal (typically slate) and deposited them into a culm dump. The coal breaker is a forerunner of the modern coal preparation plant.
In 1929 the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Co. decided to build a central breaker in the vicinity of Saint Nicholas where the village of Suffolk was located. Half the village had to be relocated to provide enough of the 10 square miles of land needed. Construction of the breaker and the stockyards with their rail connections began in 1931. There were 20 miles of railroad track laid, 3,800 tons of steel and more than 10,000 cubic yards of concrete used. A mile and a half of conveyor lines, 25 miles of conduit, 118 miles of wire and cable and 20 miles of pipe were installed.
When the St Nicholas Central Breaker began operating in 1932 it was the largest coal breaker in the world. It was connected to surrounding collieries in the area, and supplied steam to these facilities, thus eliminating the need for individual boiler houses. The coal being sent to the breaker was first rough cleaned and crushed at one of ten satellite plants, then shipped via railroad wagons to the central inbound storage yard. Once the coal was dumped at one end, it moved along the conveyor at 600 feet per minute. It only took 12 minutes to pass through the processes of the breaker, and the finished coal was then dumped into a tilting box car loader and sent to the outbound storage railroad wagons. There was the storage capacity to hold 885 fully loaded wagons ready for shipment to the market.
When the breaker was finished it was divided into two sides. Each side could be operated independently, producing 12,500 tons of coal a day. The new plant replaced two older breakers, and it was only necessary to employ half the labour force than had previously been the case. The St Nicholas Central Breaker closed in 1963 when the company shifted their operations elsewhere. As at 2011 the famous anthracite breaker still stands derelict, and it has now become a bit of a tourist attraction.
This is the only settlement of any consequence in the Mahanoy valley, located about 4 miles east of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The name is derived from the language of the Delaware Indians, meaning a “lick” where animals gathered for the salt deposits. It was spelt various ways by the early pioneers: Maghonioy, Mahoni, or Machonoy, before settling on the present spelling in the 19th century. Prior to the organisation of Schuylkill County in 1811, the township covering this territory was called Brunswick. After 1811, this township was divided and the area of Mahanoy was placed in Schuylkill Township; in 1824 with a further division, it became part of Rush Township. This arrangement lasted until 1849 when Rush was divided and the western part became Mahanoy Township. On 16th December 1859 Mahanoy City was incorporated as a borough and it became a separate entity from Mahanoy Township.
The first person to settle was a German named Reisch, who came to the site of Mahanoy City in 1791. He was basically a hunter but, with his wife, he also established an inn for the occasional passer-by. In the early 19th century the Little Schuylkill Company had extensive rights over the timber land; after 1800 lumbermen worked the territory, and there is mention of a sawmill by 1810. However, these were not permanent settlements. In 1835 the company sent John Faust to clear land in what later became Mahanoy City, and he acted as the agent for the company in this part of Schuylkill County. In 1853 Emanuel Boyer was sent as the new agent. He and his family resided in the old Reisch inn, while Jacob Faust erected a new hotel. There was the realisation that the railroad would soon reach the area and open up the rich anthracite deposits so, in 1858, the town was first laid out, and in June 1859 the sale of lots was advertised ready for the incorporation of Mahanoy City in December.
The first 30 years following the organisation of the borough were ones of turmoil and lawlessness as miners and mine owners were often in dispute. With an imperfect police force, and one that seemed to be in the pay of the mine owners, the law-abiding portion of the mining community found themselves obliged to support some of the more turbulent elements as a means with which to combat the worst excesses of the other side. During the most violent period, George Major, the Chief Burgess of Mahanoy City, was killed during a conflict in 1874. In some sections of the surrounding Mahanoy Township it became necessary for troops to be called upon to quell the disturbances (see Molly Maguires section, below). The 20th century experienced a more peaceful and uneventful period. The decline of the coal industry also brought a decline in population: in 1910 Mahanoy City had a population of 15,936; by 2009 it had fallen to 4,364.
The Mahanoy Tunnel: An important role was played by the early railroads in the growth of the coal industry and the development of Mahanoy City. From the time that it was known that large deposits of anthracite existed in the upper Mahanoy Valley, the attention of the landowners and railroad was directed to various ways of getting this coal to market. It was soon realised that the most feasible way to get this done would be by a route east through a railroad tunnel under Broad Mountain instead of from the west up the steep incline of the Mahanoy valley. The route east would connect Mahanoy City with the railroad along the Eastern seaboard, and provide rapid access to the larger market there. The East Mahanoy Railroad was incorporated in 1854 and it was built under the patronage of the Little Schuylkill Company. In the early part of 1859 work was begun and it was completed in 1862. The railroad was constructed to the base of Mahanoy Mountain, at a point four miles from Mahanoy City, it then passed under the mountain through a tunnel some four thousand feet in length. Although not a single accident occurred while the work was underway, problems with the labour force over payment of their wages was a foretale of the greater and more violent labour problems that would be experienced in this region. The Little Schuylkill Company was soon after acquired by the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad who operated the line until 1976 when that company went bankrupt. Passenger services had been abandoned in 1957, but the line continued to be used for the freight of coal. The line was acquired in 1991 by the Reading & Northern Railroad. They currently operate 1-2 trains per day through the tunnel.
The Mahanoy Plane: This was a railroad Incline Plane located north of Frackville in Schuylkill County at the entrance to the Mahanoy valley. The steep gradient delayed the opening of the anthracite fields in the valley, and persuaded the investors to support the alternative approach through the Mahanoy Tunnel. Nevertheless, a charter was granted to the Mahanoy and Broad Mountain Railroad Company in March 1859 to build a railroad from Mahanoy Township “by the most expedient and practical route, to connect with the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad”.
The route was opened in 1862. The Plane traversed Broad Mountain with a pitch of 28 degrees at its steepest point, the plane rose 524 feet over a distance of 2,460 feet. A 2,500 horsepower (1,900 kW) engine could hoist a three car trip, equivalent to 200 tons in three minutes. After 1868 new 6,000 horsepower (4,500 kW) engines were installed. These were supposedly the most powerful engines in the world, later surpassed only by the engines operating the locks on the Panama Canal. Approximately 800 to 900 railroad cars passed over the plane every twenty-four hours. The Mahanoy Plane ceased operation in February 1932 because of the decline in demand for anthracite and the much easier route through the Mahanoy Tunnel. Foundations are all that remain and there are currently no plans for historical preservation or restoration.
John Walson (1915-1993) & Cable Television: In 1947 the Walson family began selling television sets in their appliance store. It was impossible to receive the three Philadelphia network stations in Mahanoy City because the town is surrounded by mountains. Because of this situation, an antenna tower was built on top of a nearby mountain. John Walson was able to demonstrate his new television receivers at this mountain top location. In searching for ways to increase television sales, in June 1948 a line was constructed from that antenna site on utility poles to the Walsons’ appliance store. Along the way, several families were connected to this community antenna system with the aid of modified signal boosters. John Walson provided television signals to people who bought sets from his appliance store, charging $100 per hookup and $2 per month. As a result, a new industry was started in America.
Walson’s company grew over the years and he was also the first cable operator to use microwave to import distant television stations, the first to use coaxial cable to improve picture quality, and the first to distribute pay television programming. His descendants now own Service Electric, which is a family owned cable TV provider serving Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey. Although Walson’s “first” claim is disputed, he is recognised by the U.S. Congress and the National Cable Television Association as the founder of the cable television industry.
Mahanoy City and the Mahanoy valley were centres of activity for the infamous Molly Maguires. These were members of an Irish-American secret society, mainly comprising coal miners active in the Pennsylvanian anthracite coal region from approximately the time of the American Civil War until a series of sensational arrests and trials in the years 1876 - 1878. The name and practice of intimidation originated in Ireland where Molly Maguires were reported to have dressed as women. They would approach a storekeeper and demand a donation of flour or groceries, threatening dire consequences if they were refused or if they were reported to the authorities. The Molly Maguires are considered by some to have been an organisation that used terrorist tactics of murder, kidnapping and other crimes. There is little doubt that some Irish miners were engaged in violent confrontation against the anthracite companies in the 19th century to protest against labour injustice, and to resist their exploitative conditions; however, the coal mining interests seem to have focused almost exclusively upon the Molly Maguires for criminal prosecution. This may be a consequence of Irish miners acting as the core of militant trade union activism during bitter strikes in the coal industry. Violence during the period was widespread. It is apparent that the secret societies did threaten and kill mine supervisors and others who were willing to continue working. Aspects of the investigations, trials and executions were clearly not in accordance with legal requirements. Information obtained by the Pinkerton detective agency was apparently also provided to vigilantes who ambushed and murdered miners suspected of being Molly Maguires. The industrialist standing to gain financially from the destruction of the striking union (Franklin B. Gowen, the President of the Reading & Philadelphia Rail and Iron Company) acted as prosecutor of some of the alleged Molly Maguires at their trials. The Pinkerton detective, James McParland, who had infiltrated the miners’ organisation, was the star witness for the prosecution of John Kehoe and the Molly Maguires. Twenty members, including Kehoe, were found guilty of murder and were executed. There was a great deal of controversy about the way the trial was conducted. Irish Catholics were excluded from the juries while immigrants who could not speak English were accepted. Welsh immigrants, who had for a long-time been in conflict with the Irish in Schuylkill County, were also well represented on the juries. Most of the witnesses who provided evidence in these cases were, like James McParland, on the payroll of the railroad and mining companies.
Molly Maguire history is sometimes presented as the prosecution of an underground movement that was motivated by personal vendettas, and sometimes as a struggle between organised labour and powerful industrial forces. There were also religious and nationality undertones to the violence. Irish and Polish Catholic immigrants were seen to be supportive of the striking miners, whereas Welsh and German Protestant workers and families, who had been longer in America, were antagonistic towards the newer immigrant population, and thus less likely to cause trouble for the mainly Protestant mine owners. It is almost impossible to know the true facts or to obtain an unbiased account of these times. The Molly Maguire episode still lives on from generation to generation with blame and guilt being levelled by both sides. It is unresolved to the present day. This is evident in present-day politics in the State. After a long campaign, the Pennsylvania governor was persuaded to grant John Kehoe a posthumous pardon in 1980.
To commemorate this episode of history, a monument to the Mollies designed by sculptor Zenos Frudakis was erected in 2010 at the Molly Maguire Historic Park in Mahanoy City. The sculpture shows a man bound at his hands and feet with ropes, a hood over his head. On the wall behind, coloured stones depict the frame of a gallows. This statue represents every coal miner who went to the gallows.
Among the enduring issues are that innocent men were convicted along with the clearly guilty, and that both sides carried out atrocities. To understand fully the background to these troubles, reference should be made elsewhere. The entry on this website deals below with the major incident that made this particular region infamous.
Wiggans Patch Massacre: Early in the morning of December 10, 1875, a group of armed, masked men burst into the home of Charles McAllister at Wiggans Patch (now called Boston Run). They were after three men suspected of being members of the Molly Maguires and believed to be involved in the recent murders of a mine supervisor and miner. The McAllister family was related to the O’Donnells and members of both families were suspected of being in the Molly Maguires. Ellen McAllister’s sister was married to John “Black Jack” Kehoe, known to be a leader of the Mollies. It may be considered guilt by association. Nothing has ever been proven. But there had been countless murders and assaults on mine operators and workers in a reign of terror throughout the coalfields. Whether right or wrong, the strong links to the Mollies were enough to cast suspicion over the families. Charles and James McAllister escaped, but the heavily pregnant Ellen McAllister went towards the kitchen door and, meeting the intruders, was shot dead. The vigilantes then killed suspected murderer Charles O’Donnell, the brother of Ellen McAllister. By the time the neighbours had been awakened, the perpetrators of these events had vanished. No arrests were made. Nobody was ever charged. The true identity of the Wiggans Patch murderers was never found, but rumours blamed the Coal & Iron Police or the Pinkertons. Others believe that it may have been one of the rival gangs, either the Ironclads or Modocs, who were also vying for power among the immigrants in the coalfields.
Said to be Pennsylvania’s most haunted site, Wiggans Patch continues to evoke emotions after more than 130 years. The house where the violence took place was allowed to stand until 2006. Many wanted to preserve the building but the Reading Anthracite Company, who owned the land, quietly tore it down because it was said to be in a dangerous condition, threatening to topple onto the adjacent roadway and power lines. The site was nominated to receive a state historical marker, but this was officially turned down. It seems there are those who want to forget about what took place at Wiggans Patch. Today, it is still possible to see the cellar area and remnants of foundation walls at the site along Route 54, but nature is quickly reclaiming the land.
Suffolk is located in Schuylkill County, in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. The county takes its name from the Schuylkill River. The name is Dutch in origin, having been given by its European discoverer, Arendt Corssen of the Dutch West India Company . The name translates as either “hidden river” or “hideout creek”. The river’s source is in Schuylkill County, which was created in March 1811 from parts of Berks and Northampton Counties. The county has an area of 783 square miles & the population as at 2010 was 148,289. The county seat is Pottsville, around 12 miles to the south of Suffolk. Schuylkill has borders with Northumberland County & Columbia County to the northwest, Luzerne County to the north, Carbon County to the northeast, Lebanon County & Dauphin County to the southwest, Berks County to the south & Lehigh County to the southeast.
With its headquarters in Pottsville, D. G. Yuengling & Son is the oldest operating brewing company in the United States, established in 1829. It is also one of the largest brewers in the country, with over two million barrels being produced annually. Products include Yuengling Premium Beer, Lord Chesterfield Ale, & Original Black & Tan.
Also in Schuylkill County is the village of Deer Lake, where boxing legend Muhammad Ali set up his training camp in 1972. He used the facilities from then until his retirement in the 1980s. Ali owned the camp until 1997, & it still exists today in virtually the same condition as when it was created. The site includes log cabins, a dining hall, a gym & a small mosque, & still contains many artifacts from Ali's time there.
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